That said, this was a ridiculously fun read. More detailed than expected for some parts, and always informative. I'm glad it did not come across as anti speed detectors. Really more of a "know the limitations."
I wonder if his attorney cost more than the actual citation? Most people can't afford lawyer fees, so cops in California get away with this small stuff all the time without any fuss, whether they were liable or not. Congrats Joshua Block -- BTW I loved "Effective Java"!
Turns out he apparently blew a red light with his Boxster in 2010 and hit another car:
Admittedly all 3 cases were dismissed because the officer didn't bother to write a response but TBWD is a lot cheaper than lawyering up and does sometimes work.
Doesn't really matter -- getting a[nother] point on your license can be more costly log-term (insurance rates, having to re-take drivers test, etc).
However, traffic violations is most places are about revenue raising so anything which reduces the opportunities - like accuracy and fairness - are unlikely to get much of a look in.
edit: for clarity, it looks like this http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pictured-speeding-motor...
also referenced in my reply below.
I always assumed that the radar was only for deciding to take and submit the pictures, the actual speed measurement (especially if challenged) would be done using the markings on the road.
That only requires the speed camera to have a reliable to 1/100 second clock which isn't exactly rocket science.
(e.g. it looks like this http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pictured-speeding-motor...)
In the UK, the data shows that speeding (excessive speed for the conditions above the speed limit) is the primary cause in single digit percentage of accidents. I believe there's data from 1996 and 2007 for this, will dig it out when I'm not on mobile.
If you want to spend money on accident prevention, there's much better things to target than speeding.
Preventing accidents isn't the only reason to enforce traffic laws.
When the cops don't even respect the laws, the laws are meaningless.
If it's something like 15 Av NW in Ballard, it's pretty obvious that you're meant to cross at a light, even if you legally have more of a right to cross at the uncontrolled intersection one block away. It's unreasonable to expect a highway-in-all-but-name to stop for one person when marked, lit crossings exist within five blocks at all points along the road.
Even in the case of normal 2 lane roads, drivers here still act like pedestrians do not have the right to cross anywhere but a crosswalk (and some don't even respect the crosswalk), and it only gets worse with 3 and 4 lane roads because that is where the drivers tend to drive significantly over the speed limit.
And yes, I do consider it reasonable to expect cars to stop for pedestrians in all scenarios where pedestrians have the right of way. A 5 block detour to cross the street can add another 15 minutes to your quick trip...what would happen if the situation were reversed? Can you imagine the outrage that would happen if cars had to drive 15 minutes out of their way? Slowing down for 5 seconds to let someone walk across the street is a miniscule inconvenience in comparison.
Would you feel safe crossing the road now?
Also, even if speeding is not the direct cause of an accident it increases the damage resulting from an accident.
PS: It has been estimated that hard limiting private vehicles to 40MPH would have saved over 2 Million lives in the US. Not that I am promoting such a low speed limit but people really don't understand the dangers of speed. Every year after 1945 at least 30,000 people died with a peak well over 50,000.
I think as a percentage it would be unimaginably tiny which supports the assertion that it is misplaced enforcement if safety is actually the goal.
If speed limit laws didn't exist, can you imagine lawmakers saying, "We need more money. Hey, I know! Let's charge people money for driving over a certain speed!"
1) Why aren't law enforcement more focused on getting people to slow down than writing tickets?
2) Why do traffic cops have monthly quotas for tickets?
3) In places where monthly quotas are against the law, why do 'performance revues' of traffic cops only focus on '# of tickets' as the largest performance metric? (basically a quota by another name)
4) Why is it so easy to bargain down a speeding ticket in a large city, whereas in a small town they are only willing to haggle on the points on your license (hint: because they still want you money)?
Just because they weren't conceived for a purpose doesn't mean that's not how they're used. Speed enforcement is very frequently performed by small town cops sitting on highways that are just barely in their jurisdiction. They're doing it for money, plain and simple.
See https://www.google.com/maps/preview?client=safari&q=hampton+... for proof of this.
Where I live, in Chicago, the speed limits are so low on some freeways that 91-98 percent of people are going over the speed limit, and the average speed is over 70mph. So everyone, including the police it seems, agrees that the speed limits here are not for my safety, but exist as a way for the officers to cherry pick essentially any car they want and write them a ticket.
My mother got snagged in one of these in Virginia a while back - they have a hill where the speed limit drops from 65 to 45 at the bottom of it, with a specially planted copse of trees where the police sit with their detectors. A quarter mile down the road, they have a specially built parking lot for people to get their tickets. They even provide envelopes and stamps for people to send their checks! Nice people.
I suspect that this business model is in trouble if GPS makers begin to track speed-limit information and pass that along to their users.
No, lawmakers don't say "Hey, I know! Let's charge people money for driving over a certain speed!", they instead say: "lets install these red light cameras on this intersection that doesn't see a lot of accidents.", or "this long straight stretch of highway, with few accidents, but lots of speeding should be better policed". The enforcement of laws becomes more about making money from the tickets than from concerns about safety.
I live in an area where stationary speed cameras are around every corner (Montgomery Co, Maryland). I've lived here long enough to know that there's no way the county would spend money on the equipment and man power to maintain and operate that network, just to break even for the sake of safety.
Sure, they're common in Canada and the US but in some other countries they lead to years of civil disobedience, protests and eventual scrapping by newly elected governments : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skye_Bridge#Toll_controversy
Speed fines have the semi-respectibility claim of trying to reduce accidents/dangers on the road (with some validity).
Not that I support his claim, just refuting yours.
Possibly because a civil society, favoring the preservation of a measure of basic autonomy, does not implement every measure for tracking, enforcing, circumscribing, and monitoring the people.
The utilitarian argument for them is very strong.
Once we have it, it would also be of great utility to investigate kidnappings and terrorism. And serious and violent crime. And vehicle thefts. And drug trafficking. And driving without a license, insurance, or tax. And lying about your address to get your kid into a good school.
And who could object, when we're already storing proof of what really happened, to that proof being used to vindicate the innocent in a divorce hearing, or an employment tribunal?
As faithful believers in the free market, what better way to fight congestion and encourage the use of public transport than a tax that only applies on congested roads, and only at peak hours of the day? What luck, the infrastructure is already in place.
No doubt the system will be expensive to design and operate. It would help defray the costs if we release citizens' travel records to some carefully vetted partners, such as academic researchers, urban planning consultants, insurance companies, marketing companies and credit rating agencies.
That sort of defeats the point of speeding. Why endanger your lives and the lives of the others if you even don't get faster to your destination as you make additional stops to "defeat" anti-speeding systems?
A camera records the traffic, a computer extract the plates. Then later you have the same setup, and they can then calculate your average speed between the two. The French name is "radar tronçon".
If you're around DC, there are a bunch of automated speed detectors built into the highways, and it's the same story: People slow down for the trap, and then speed up afterwards.
If you're from out of town, you're pretty well screwed because you'll be following some guy who will, out of the blue, slow down for no apparent reason.
Definition of a speed trap: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d17/vc40802.htm
Speed traps are prohibited: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d17/vc40801.htm
They are very common in Australia. It takes a photo of your license plate, then another 10km (or whatever) down the freeway. If the two photos are less than x seconds apart, you get a speeding ticket.
1: I only have second-hand/anecdotal knowledge that these departments are funded by fines. Still, I believe my point remains.
If fines and or punishments are used primarily as a deterrent, then why not just have huge punishments all over the place?
Do you see how that's immoral? Fines should be used as punishment, not deterrence (punishment is a form of deterrence, but is merely a side effect). If I decide to litter, it's because I think "this is not that big of a crime. I'm not harming people very much." It's not anyones natural moral instinct to think, "I would do this, but the penalty is to high" - we're conditioned to think that. But as is all to often, a lot of times people are not even aware that their actions may be illegal, or may not be aware the consequences are vastly harsher than the crime. Do you know what the penalty is for driving with one bad headlight? me neither. I hope its reasonable, especially when I make the decision to do it, but I base the decision off the fact that driving without a headlight does not seem that egregious of a crime.
So shouldn't our punishment system be base off the same thing that people use to guide their decisions? The results of our actions?
The answer is yes. I don't want to live in the world you are imagining. Even if there is no litter on the ground and no one speeds.
If you say, just inform everyone of the laws really really well so they know beforehand when making a decision, that is utterly impossible. Foreigners exist. People are busy. All laws are not even totally known to the lawmakers. It is an impossible task.
Back to your point: If the goal was to stop speeding, they would make it physically impossible to speed. Either by really pervasive robotic enforcement, or governors in cars. But they don't do that, they want the money.
Still, the punishment should reflect the crime, even in the robotic police world.
That's not entirely true, it depends on your insurance. It's an offence to drive a car without insurance, and an offence to allow someone who is uninsured to drive your car. Some insurance policies do not extend the insurance you took out to driving other peoples cars. However, some fully comprehensive policies do have third party insurance while you are driving someone else's car with their permission. In that case it's fully legal to drive.
Now, automated tagging of morons who stare at their phone while driving? Bring it on. Those fuckers are a plague.
 The Mass Pike (I-90); which is a toll highway that is marked 65 MPH, on which traffic averages 75 MPH, and 80 MPH is well under the speed the highway can safely support (given attentive drivers).
Good god man, since when is that a given? The situation worsens with each passing day.
For example, in NZ, there is a speed camera half-way down Ngauranga gorge in Wellington - a place where there is a blind turn down a steep slope and where the limit goes from 100kph down to 80kph.
This is of course in context of freeways - residential streets etc do require a hard speed limit.
There are lots of expressions of this fundamental reason, such as people throwing a fit about automated license plate reading in the name of privacy. But our all boils down to the fact that a person turns into a sociopathic scofflaw as soon as he gets behind the wheel.
It's different on residential streets, but on freeways I think the way Germany handles it is better. Speeding tickets (and most traffic violations really) are not about safety or curbing behavior they're about generating revenue for the town/city.
His explanation IIRC was that 1. once people broke the limit it didnt matter how much and 2. when speed limits felt more correct more people respected them.
I'd love to know if anyone has any pointers to research on this as around here speed limits are weird. (80 in places where you obviously can't even drive 80 and 80 on the highway, -four lanes)
My (unscientific) theory is that with higher speed limits, you get more traffic waves, and people try to change lanes more often, causing delays.
If the speed limit on LA freeways was only 25mph, I would hope that people would chill out and the traffic would flow more smoothly, resulting in a faster average speed than at present.
Initial "tests" with lighter traffic conditions proved that the system helped stabilize closing speeds and volume, but in the actually troublesome heavier traffic conditions the state has been unable to figure out when and where to deploy the pace vehicles effectively.
Also, changing the speed limits on roads have been studied and it doesn't make a humongous difference. The government usually sets the speed limit at slightly lower than the average speed people actually drive.
Actually, blanket arguments like "speeding is extremely dangerous" are ludicrous. "Speeding" is exceeding a semi-arbitrary speed threshold. If that threshold is, say, 70 mph I'm OK at 70 but if I go to 71 I am being "extremely dangerous"? 71 is speeding in that case, after all.
> A third of crashes (including fatal crashes) involve speeding,
If a third or more of all drivers speed, that statistic is meaningless.
> the faster you are driving the more likely you are to die or fatally injure another.
Indeed, and that statement has nothing to do with speeding. It is a continuum from 0 to whatever the top speed of a given vehicle is. This statement is equally valid when you are under the speed limit.
> Also, changing the speed limits on roads have been studied and it doesn't make a humongous difference. The government usually sets the speed limit at slightly lower than the average speed people actually drive.
I have seen that happen before, but in my experience that is the exception rather than the rule.
"The government usually sets the speed limit at slightly lower than the average speed people actually drive."
I don't think you've ever driven on a US interstate.
If there's a sidewalk or any t-junctions, that's about 20mph tops. Anything faster, and you can't stop in time, plus in a collision, kinetic energy goes as the square of the speed.
For local trips, with stoplights that slow you down anyway, driving slower adds only a few extra minutes to your journey time.
Personally, I'm not seeing the need to be so hurried all the time.
I think the main difference is the price, especially since 2 point systems turn into n-point systems if you have a lot of intersections.
a person turns into a sociopathic scofflaw as soon as he
gets behind the wheel
That is an ideological position, and I could easily apply the same blanket label of absolute sociopathy to law enforcement, and I'd be just as wrong.
But there's a difference between a mechanized, automatic law enforcement system and a law enforcment system that is implemented as a practice performed by living human beings. The human version is prone to imperfections and corruption, yes. But mechanized, automated law enforcement really COULD express a perfect ideology and attempt to enforce it perfectly, with an unforgiving brutality, which could not otherwise be accomplished with the complicity of human beings. Please understand that difference.
If you think placing a human being behind the machinery of an automobile is automatically bad, think about what it might mean to place a human being behind the machinery of a fully automated law enforcement system, with that same lens of blanket sociopathy.
Every single one of those things has a law attached. People either forget or think that the law doesn't apply to them.
People who speed, hang out in the left lane, run red lights, don't signal their turns and lane changes, and so on are a danger to themselves and others.
That's an interesting point. Would that be admissible, though? Wouldn't you saying "He said it was at X feet" would be considered hearsay in court, versus a cop saying "I took a reading at X/2 feet"?
If you're in serious trouble, STFU is the correct choice, but it's not necessarily the most economical for a moving violation.
1) Just to demonstrate that a nonuniform sweep is amenable to detection or processing, consider this picture, with the correct estimate in green:
2) Now imagine the device is more sophisticated. Consider it has a very large resolution around the incoming pulse:
In this case the beam width is actually beneficial, and so are large distances. The sweep effect would cause a shift in the peak intensity shown in the graph, but the object depth frustrum should be clear across samples (and dislocating at t'=t-v*dt/c).
3) Officers can be trained to recognize situations unforable, regardless of distance. One fast car passing a slow one would make it easy to confuse the equipment. A clear desert however doesn't present many threats for error.
It's strange how he mentions the sampling speed, but then pretends it's 1/3 second. Basically what he is attacking is the worst design of a speed gun that he could imagine from the public information. A more fair challenge would be to find sufficient error from a competent design of a speed gun, but then it wouldn't be as self serving.
Come court day, I got all dressed up, stood up when called and started my arguments ... and the judge simply cut me off after two sentences and said "guilty".
I'm surprised this guy was allowed to present his whole argument and it actually convinced a judge.
I've fought them in Connecticut later and there you only meet with a prosecutor and they warn you all over the place that if you don't take the deal and try to go to court the judge can significantly increase the fine :-(
Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of speed limit laws, I do believe that consistent and efficient enforcement can only be a good thing.
Because of that they need mobile, disguisable, hand held units. Video from a handheld unit wouldn't be great for determining speed.
Now, they could easily create combination LIDAR-Video boxes and mount them above traffic for clear speed calculations. But then people would learn where they are and drive slowly at that location so it wouldn't generate any revenue.
In fact it might actually cause accidents because drivers might slam on the breaks when they get close.
This depends on the country. In the US and Canada it certainly can be and is a cash grab, but in Switzerland, for example, it's not. Fines are in place, but they are also almost always accompanied by deterrent measures as well. Going 120 km/h through a tunnel where the limit is 80 km/h can earn you a week in prison sleepovers (that is you have to go to the prison for the night) with all earnings for that week withheld as a fine. Also, there's a lot of stationary speedguns, which you can spot at a distance. I also saw semi-portable automated speedgun that was placed in a specific spot where people tended to go over posted 60 km/h limit. It stayed in place for a week and then was removed, presumably after the average speed dropped to the limit.
Also, the red light ticketing programs are often administered by private companies, without officers being involved. Speeding ticket video would need to recorded by the police.
All that said, I think its a great idea and the obstacles can surely be worked out.
Finally, a tip: if you are ever pulled over and you plan to dispute the arrest, request the officer's dashboard video ASAP. This will ensure it is preserved and available for you at trial; if you don't request it quickly enough it might not be available when you do. Don't count on it being around even a week - request it the very next day.
Got a speeding ticket from one of these lovely cameras in the state of Iowa, then I was sent a bill from some company in Phoenix with bold threats that if I didn't pay the fine, it'd be submitted to a collection agency and negatively impact my credit score (because otherwise I'd just have not paid it. I'd happily live the rest of my life without ever entering Iowa where they could arrest me with a bench warrant)
It's corrupt, illegal and immoral. However, since I (like most people, I'd wager) don't have the time nor energy to fight, I paid my $200 fine and moved on.
The camera is not your accuser; the state is, using the camera as evidence of your violation.
It would be no different than a security camera catching you breaking into a building. The camera doesn't sue, the owner of the building does.
This entire line of reasoning would completely destroy any kind of automated crime detection (security systems, security cameras), which is ridiculous on its face.
Further, what happens when you commit a crime where there are no witnesses? People are rightfully convicted of crimes based on "things" rather than the testimony of a person who saw it, regularly.
Someone testifies as to what they've witnessed that makes them believe you are guilty, giving you a chance to question them about any flaws.
"We saw you do this, pay us $50 and it goes away. No insurance report, no evidence, nobody knows."
Law enforcement does this all the time, so does the mob. Its not even worth it to fight it (economic speaking), the time you'll spend out of work, stressed, etc. Then if you get a lawyer involved. You'll end up spending >$300 in time and money to not spend $50.
You can go to court and ask to challenge the evidence the camera has provided.
"Confronting Automated Law Enforcement"
I am biased. To accept the idea of compliance with the law to the letter constantly is unreasonable. Roll 1-3 feet over the white stop line? Ticket. 1-2mph over the speed limit? Ticket.
For the non-java inclined, he wrote (among other things) java.util.HashMap. Most all Java programs run (lots) of his code.
I don't think I've ever successfully jammed one, since again, AZ is mostly Ka, but it's pretty neat to know that they can work as advertised (since they're built in to the front of the car most likely to be targeted by lidar).
1. Lidar gun manufacturers test them on limited and ideal circumstances
2. Beam divergence and shakiness make them less useful past 1000 feet, which is generally acknowledged.
Could be of value to anyone wishing to fight a ticket.
Whenever you see anyone working with lasers they'd wear protective glasses. Now I realise Lidar uses infrared wavelength which is not visible to us, but that does not mean it's not dangerous, or does it?
Lidar operates at relatively low power and relies on very sensitive detection in a very narrow wavelength range to identify reflections.
They are used for law-enforcement, but presumably aren't available for public scrutiny, especially around 'proprietary' algorithms. As mentioned, they can get firmware updates that change behaviour, yet that doesn't make it out into "does this mean it was mis-behaving before, therefore I should dismiss tickets issued in situation X".
It's similar in some ways to vote counting machines. If they are used in public elections, then the inner workings should be available for introspection to ensure correctness.
Granted, they can't dump the firmware these devices use but they are very telling in what these detectors can pick up, can't, real world examples, and so on.
You'd especially do it in a state where the law says "x" mph over the limit and your license may get suspended (meaning you walk for 60 days). It'd be worth fighting for.
I'm not sure I'd have the resources to fight it, but I would certainly want to.
You can ask the officer if there was a wind that day, and if so how heavy. You can ask if the officer used a tripod or held the gun freehanded. Even if the officer admits that there was a heavy wind, the gun was used freehanded, and he or she pinged you in traffic at 950 ft, the judge will still accept the officer's word that your car, and only your car, was targeted.
Why? Because it's easier for the court, because they know you can't prove without a doubt that the officer targeted a different car, and because it is an important source of income for the city or county which has summoned you.
It's a scam, but it's one which Americans in general are comfortable with because it gives them the illusion of safety.
I think dang is working hard to be transparent about this topic. You can see a number of examples of this by reading through the following search result .
Cases in point:
He has reverted titles to their original form... "Ok, we'll change the title back again." 
He is open to suggestions...
"If anyone suggests a better title, I'll change it again." 
"That's a fair suggestion and we changed the title accordingly." 
"We'd happily change the title if someone can propose a more accurate and neutral one." 
Why not just implement a title history feature? Mods can change title, then users can click a link to show title history.
For extra points, you could make the title history page a poll/voting system which allows users above n karma, registered for x months to vote on their preferred title. Top voted title after y votes and z time after initial title change is what's used.
So would I. Last time I mentioned this I got my head bit off (that's how it's always been!!). I don't care. It could AND SHOULD be better and WILL be if we demand it.
I agree. From the random weighting down of certain articles, to title changes, to just flat-out removing/flaging some posts... it seems HN is becoming a "whatever the Mod who happens to be on today feels like" site -- which really detracts from the awesomeness of HN -- I'm not looking for a gatekeeper news site - if I wanted that, I'd go to CNN or something.
Although the logical outcome of this would be some kind of graph generated for each thread that plots upvotes, downvotes, mod actions, user edits etc. over time but that would be insane...
I guess they're trying to keep the title to match the title of the link/article. But sometimes the article just has a bad title. This slideshow is a great read, but with a title that puts me to sleep.
It's not possible to mentally queue up items to read throughout the day. All the titles will have changed by that point.
The question has been asked, and answered, very many times.
The guidelines have advice about threads like these: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
The original title of the post wasn't a comment on the content, but rather somewhat of a subtitle, which provided a better description.
The mods changed the title, which in that case made it less misleading, but they didn't leave any comment to say what the old title was. My comment no longer made any sense, and because a few hours had passed, I couldn't edit it to add a footnote for confused readers (and plus, I couldn't remember the precise wording of the original title).
I can understand why the titles are sometimes changed and most of the time I think it's for the better (although this time I agree it was a bad choice). What I would like to see added is a changelog feature, so that whenever the mods change a title, a footnote appears directly below the summary, before comments, showing who changed the title, what it had been, and optionally the reason it was changed.
As for your factual claim, the post has been sitting near the top of the front page for 16 hours now.
As I see it, our differences of opinion on this topic stem largely from misunderstanding it. I think it's not at all clear what we're even talking about, so we wind up arguing about slightly different things and fail to come to a consensus.
I think that we need to really understand the purpose of these titles, and to also understand that different people mean different things by the word "title". In fact, I think we're talking about three distinct but related ideas: titles, names, and summaries.
A name is a word or phrase that identifies a thing. A name isn't necessarily descriptive and often has no more meaning than being a word or phrase denoting the thing it names. My name is Adam. That tells you very little about me. All you can do with that is to identify me.
A summary describes a thing. I am a software developer with a penchant for pedantry. That's a summary. It actually tells you something about my nature, which the name "Adam" does not.
A title is first and foremost a kind of name. Ideally, it's also a descriptive summary, though that's not required. As a name, the important thing is that it is as short and as unique as reasonable. That's more important that descriptiveness.
In my opinion, Hacker News links should not be titles, i.e. names, but rather short summaries. Using a title is fine, but only as long as it's also a good summary.
The point of the front page is to link to things that are new and fresh. Ideally, most people won't have seen most things, meaning few will be familiar with their names. A page of new names that nobody recognizes is pretty pointless. You might as well use randomly generated words for the links. Or numbers. Like item?id=8114336.
Instead of titles, I think links should be summaries. When they are summaries, they can provide some real information about the thing that is linked. That can be used to decide whether to invest time in clicking through. When a link is just a name, you have little information to base that decision on, so you have to click most of the links to know which are the interesting ones.
But, if all HN links are summaries, how will we know what to call the articles they link? Well, if the summary is interesting enough to want to talk about, you'll click the link and see the actual title. Names are unimportant on the HN front page. They only become useful in the comments, and by then you should have at least read the title of the article, if not the whole thing.
The original summary here was useful and information-packed without being too long: "Josh Bloch Fights a LIDAR Speeding Ticket (with Science)". I care that it's Josh Bloch. I care that he's using science, in court. I care that it's about LIDAR and not RADAR. The fact that it's Josh Bloch, and that he's using science to fight a ticket means he was probably wrongfully ticketed, implying weaknesses in LIDAR speed guns that I want to understand. I got all that from a good, short summary.
The new summary is just the title of the linked article, which in this case is mostly just a name: "The Lowdown on Lidar". So, it's about LIDAR generally? Or as opposed to RADAR? Given the use of "lowdown", it's probably it's about some stuff that isn't commonly known. Maybe. Or maybe it's a boring, entry-level article on range finding in general that happens to talk about LIDAR rather than RADAR or SONAR. The title tells me very little and is not helpful in deciding whether to click the link, though it is a good name that's short and easy to use when talking about the article. I enjoyed reading "The Lowdown on Lidar".
The most important and useful thing a main page link can do is to accurately and faithfully inform the reader about the contents of the link. Accurately naming the linked thing is neither important nor useful. That is especially not useful when the name given by the original author misrepresents the contents, as is sometimes the case.
Accuracy is important in general, but we must be clear about specifically which kind of accuracy matters most here.
Why not have mods vet the summaries, like they do with titles? Because it'd be way too much work to do that for all articles. Dozens make it to the frontpage each day. And then we'll run into situations where the mods haven't vetted a summary at night (because they're sleeping) so some linkbaity summary flairs up to the frontpage for no good reason. This is exactly what happens on Reddit, and it's the reason HN should maintain its current rule regarding titles.
Good content, not good titles, should define HN as a community.
I don't see the purpose of having mods vet all titles or summaries. I don't think titles need any special blessing by an elite caste of users. I don't think it's important that titles be in any way "official" or even neutral.
Perhaps I'm not concerned because I also don't see duplicate posts as being especially bad. Maybe they are a bit annoying sometimes, but there are worse problems in the world. Why not simply embrace duplicates and let the best title rise to the top? Certainly people occasionally post comments saying essentially the same thing. There, we just let the voting system do what it does and push the best version to the top. Why not do that with titles as well? The only problem I can see is that conversations may be fragmented -- but copy/paste is super easy. Links in comments are easy to create and to follow.
The only real need I see for moderators is to occasionally deal with a flagrantly abusive link. Even that is questionable.
I think people are smart. We're mostly adults here, and we aren't easily controlled with blatantly editorialized links. I don't see any danger that we need protection from.
I guess the point I'm attempting to argue is that this particular policy is suboptimal and should be changed. Of course, when a policy or consensus exists, we should follow it. When it's a bad policy, we should follow it until we change it or remove it. I think we should change this.
My position basically boils down to a worse-is-better argument. I think the desire to maximize accuracy with original titles actually harms the conversation more than inaccuracies and editorializing in information-packed summaries.
What matters to me in this case is the signal-to-noise ratio, not the absolute level of noise in the data. Original titles can be "cleaner" and less noisy, but they also have relatively little information, or signal. I would rather have twice the noise if it gives me three times the signal.
I even see the noise as useful in a way. It adds color. Even when a title is inaccurate, it's sometimes interesting to think about how or why it is inaccurate. A little mess never killed anybody, and can even keep us healthy. Ultimately, if I'm so busy I don't have enough time to be occasionally mislead by a click-bait title, then I don't really have time to spend on HN in the first place.
I think the right way to deal with inaccurate titles is either to simply ignore them, or maybe to downvote them and to upvote duplicate posts with better titles. But won't HN then turn into reddit? I don't think so.
See, I think we try to fix too many things with laws where we should instead use social pressure. The reason that Americans don't litter very much isn't that it's now a ticketable offense. It's that we have decided that litterers are idiots and everybody hates them. The reason many subreddits are cesspools isn't the lack of rules, it's that they're populated by people who haven't collectively figured out a better way to behave -- or who don't particularly value the benefits of that different behavior. Adding a new rule won't fix anything if people don't understand and accept the purpose behind the rule. And if they understand the purpose, they usually don't need the rule.
Someone could argue that HN is something of a cesspool because so many comment threads go off topic. Like this one. Some people despise that. In general, though, HN users generally seem to appreciate an off-topic conversation so long as it's adding value. What we don't approve of is comments that don't add value. But, we don't need rules for that. It's just our commonly accepted behavior. Other groups have different values, and that's ok.
But I'd rather have the odd editorialised title slipping through, than a large collection of bland, meaningless and decontextualised link titles. The current situation makes HN titles far inferior.
Good. HN titles being inferior will attract fewer new users.
Hell, lots of times I'll load 10 HN threads in my browser, to read later ... and then later when I get to them I refresh to start with the latest comments, look at the headline, and think "Um? When did I click on this? And where's that thread about ___? I think I clicked on that before ..."
If you have an opinion on a submission, submit a comment to it.
If you don't like the title, blame the author. Mods, afaik, are just trying to follow the rule that the submission should reflect the title of the article.
Josh Bloch Fights a LIDAR Speeding Ticket (with Science)
Which is much better than the currently edited version.
1. Josh Bloch is an author of particular interest to this community.
2. When I searched to see if the page had already been submitted, I noted that recent HN posts on LIDAR were on technical laser ranging (e.g. in mapping applications), not on speed enforcement.
3. I thought it was an article that would be of interest to HN readers, so I thought they would be well-served by an appealing link title which conveyed the content and tone of the presentation and invited a click.
> Please don't do things to make titles stand out, like using uppercase or exclamation points, or adding a parenthetical remark saying how great an article is. It's implicit in submitting something that you think it's important.
> Otherwise please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait.
The submitter didn't do this.
Guidelines != rules. Sometimes authors write poor headlines (this is a great example). The community benefits from headlines that are more descriptive of the article. Having mods change them back for consistency's sake harms HN more than it helps.
The thing the mods are trying to avoid is link baiting, and they tend to err on the side of "no exceptions". I prefer this, as any other option may lead to more unintentional bias, or worse.
Regardless, I still would have preferred the original title. Perhaps removing the reference to Josh Bloch (and, perhaps, the parenthetical "with science") could have been dropped to reduce its link baity-ness.
As an addendum, I clicked on the link and read the article after the title had been changed to match the article's title, so perhaps my stated preference, as an afterthought, is completely unfounded.
Your title is link-baity. "Beats speeding ticket" and "with science" are obvious link bait. I'm kind of surprised that you thought your replacements would stick.
And I think it's relevant that the content of the presentation is scientific/analytic, rather than related to using legal strategies to invalidate a speeding ticket, for example.
Not in my opinion. The speeding ticket Mr. Bloch fights is a secondary point to the main purpose of the presentation.
However, there is also a strong argument to be made that there are good articles with lame titles (such as this one) which would otherwise be glossed over without a title change. Maybe the best solution would be to add a summary field to submissions, restricted to an 80-character, purely factual synopsis of the article's contents. It could show up smaller, beneath the submission headline, like a subtitle.
This way, you gain the benefits of editorialization (providing pertinent info highlighting the article's appeal to HN readers) while minimizing most of the downsides (loss of info provided in the title, misconstruction of the author's intent).
Titles have a context (which the author considered when they chose it). That context doesn't exist when it sits enumerated on the HN front page, invalidating the canonical title argument.
For instance when the author of this piece shared this, they did so under their own twitter account (coupling it with a name), and the supporting commentary "I gave this talk at a CA traffic ticket defense attorney seminar. Comments appreciated.". If these two elements didn't exist, and it was just tossed onto some pile of titles, it would be ignored.
I write a blog about software development, particularly financial and database related matters. I have vague titles like "Dealing with Variance" that makes total sense in the context of my blog and its readership, but is completely meaningless title outside of it.
While I do think there has been good transparency about title changes (a mod usually comments), the whole "what the original author intended" argument is misled.